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The Blood of the Martyr

08-07-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks we have witnessed mass murder and murder at Mass. Both shock the conscience. But the latter I take very personally: Je suis Jacques Hamel. Fr. Jacques Hamel, priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France, in his 80’s and had been a priest over 50yrs, martyred while saying Mass. Fr. Hamel was not the first priest to be killed at the altar and probably not the last. We have been down this road before.

Consider a bit of history: 732 Charles Martel at Tours in France, 1571 Don Juan and Andrea Doria at the Battle of Lepanto, 1683 the Battle at the gates of Vienna and the long line of Spanish martyrs that preceded them as the West fought back a very aggressive form of Islam. It was because of the victory at Lepanto that St. Pius V gave us the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (formerly called the Feast of Our Lady of Victory). St. Pius had asked everyone to pray the rosary as the battle commenced and he attributed the unlikely victory to the Rosary.

So here we are again, as the West was in 732, 1571 and 1683 since the 1990’s we have witnessed an aggressive Islam waging war against the West. But unlike the leaders in the past our present day leaders are content to live with denial as to what is going one. We are told again and again that this is not Islam, or when a terrorist screaming Allahu Akbar strikes “we are unsure of the killers motives” and most recently the rationale for the slitting of the old priest’s throat was that it was designed to cause a backlash against Muslims so we would be pulled into a war with them. The cognitive dissonance and ostrich head in the sand mentality is getting lots of people killed.

Then as soon as Fr. Hamel was killed Christians were quickly reminded that Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek”. Well yes he did. But that is when someone slaps you on one cheek not when someone tries to slit your throat. Turning the other cheek does not abrogate the principle of self-defense. The Catechism teaches thus: (2263ff)

The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. " The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."

Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.

Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

Thus parents have the right and duty to protect their families, priests have a right and duty to protect their people, bishops have a right and duty to protect their flocks and civil authorities have a right and duty to protect their citizens.

Fr. Hamel was doing just that: protecting his people with the blood of Christ when his own blood was shed. Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel: “no one who comes to be will be snatched out of my hands”. Even if the terrorist slit all our throats we still belong to Christ and His Kingdom. Fr. Hamel is now numbered among the martyrs of the Church, sharing the company of the blessed, the holy ones who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

When I stand at the altar I now wonder, “will they come for me too and more importantly will I have the same fortitude as Fr. Hamel?” At the same time two of the spiritual works of mercy come to mind: bear wrongs patiently and forgive injuries as well as Jesus admonition to pray for those who persecute you. I will do that. We all must.

For now let us all take up the weapon of the Rosary and if we are faithful to it we will one day, soon please God, celebrate our Lady of Victory once again. And may St. Joan of Arc pray for us.

Fr. John B.